Imagine a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge.
The Wikimedia projects make up one of the world's largest repositories of human knowledge. With that much information, someone is bound to get upset by some of the content from time to time. While the vast majority of content disputes are resolved by users themselves, in some extreme cases the Wikimedia Foundation may receive a legal demand to override our users.
The Wikimedia projects are yours, not ours. People just like you from around the world write, upload, edit, and curate all of the content. Therefore, we believe users should decide what belongs on Wikimedia projects whenever legally possible.
Below, you will find more information about the number of requests we receive, where they come from, and how they could impact free knowledge. You can also learn more about how we fight for freedom of speech through our user assistance programs in the FAQ.
Threats to freedom of speech, writing and action, though often trivial in isolation, are cumulative in their effect and, unless checked, lead to a general disrespect for the rights of the citizen.
Copyrighting Facts May 2015
A user contacted us to express concern about an English Wikipedia article on a famous work of art. They wanted to remove a single sentence, on the grounds that the sentence infringed their claimed copyright in a theory they had published some years ago. We explained to them that it is impossible to copyright an idea or a short statement of fact. They could copyright their article, but not the theories contained within. If the community thought the idea was interesting or notable and complied with Wikipedia’s policies, it was free to include it in the article.
Citation Needed January 2015
A self-identified religious group wrote us, requesting that we remove multiple English Wikipedia articles. As support for their request, they cited a self-publication declaring that the founder of their tradition is the ruler of the universe. We explained that the Wikimedia Foundation does not edit or curate content on Wikipedia, and that if they were concerned about inaccuracies, they could consult Wikipedia's experienced volunteer editors. We also directed them to Wikipedia’s policy on verifiability and guide to identifying reliable sources, so that they could better understand the standards applied to Wikipedia articles and permissible sources to cite in those articles.
Political Points March 2015
A lawyer reached out to us on behalf of a lesser-known North American political party that was unhappy with edits to English Wikipedia articles about the party and one of its leaders. Her clients apparently wanted previous, more promotional versions of the articles restored in place of the later versions. To better engage in discussions with the community, we encouraged them to familiarize themselves with Wikipedia's recommendations on style and tone and the policy restricting use of promotional language. We also advised that one of the best ways to resolve their concerns is to engage with the community directly.
Last year, a European court decision, Google Spain v. AEPD and Mario Costeja González, granted individuals the ability to request that search engines “de-index” content about them under the so-called “Right To Be Forgotten” doctrine. We believe that denying people access to relevant and neutral information is antagonistic to the values of the Wikimedia movement and have made a statement opposing the decision.
However, under the theory of the 'Right To Be Forgotten', we have started receiving direct requests to remove content from Wikimedia projects.*
* Please note that this information only reflects requests made directly to us. Wikimedia project pages continue to disappear from search engine results without any notice, much less, request to us. We have a dedicated page where we post the notices about attempts to remove links to Wikimedia projects that we have received from the search engines who provide such notices as part of their own commitments to transparency. But we suspect that many search engines are not even giving notice, which we find contrary to core principles of free expression, due process, and transparency.
Jan 2015 – Jun 2015
Total Number of DMCA Takedown Requests
Jan – Jun 2015
Percentage of Requests Granted
DMCA Takedown Notices
The Wikimedia community is made up of creators, collectors, and consumers of free knowledge. While most material appearing on Wikimedia projects is in the public domain or freely licensed, on occasion, copyrighted material makes its way onto the projects.
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) safe harbor provision requires us to remove infringing material if we receive a proper takedown request. We thoroughly evaluate each DMCA takedown request to ensure that it is valid. We only remove allegedly infringing content when we believe that a request is valid and we are transparent about that removal. If we do not believe a request to be valid, we will push back as appropriate. To learn more about DMCA procedures, see our DMCA policy.
Below, we provide information about the DMCA takedown notices we have received in the past and how we responded to them.
Copyright law's perennial dilemma is to determine where exclusive rights should end and unrestrained public access should begin.
The Right Way March and April 2015
We carefully evaluate every DMCA notice we receive, but the job is easier when the requester provides all of the necessary information. Recently, we complied with two DMCA notices from a stock photo agency. One concerned a photo of a red fox, the other a Nepalese mountain. They also requested a third photo be removed, but as is often the case, the community noticed the improper copyright permissions and proactively removed it before we got the chance to. In each case, the agency had followed the template for DMCA requests, facilitating our review and consequently the removal of their content.
Home-Made Barnstar March 2015
The Wikimedia community is large and diverse, but has many things in common: for example, who doesn’t like getting a barnstar to recognize their good work on the Projects? Unfortunately, we recently received a DMCA request about one of the many barnstar images available across Wikimedia projects. Someone had uploaded a unique 'Home-Made Barnstar' from an arts and crafts site without permission to use the star. We evaluated the request, and removed the image. Don’t worry, though: you can still get a homemade barnstar. There are freely licensed barnstars, like this one, just waiting to be discovered and awarded.
Mistaken Identity January, March, and May 2015
Sometimes, we get takedown requests for websites that we do not operate. In most cases, we explain to the requester that they’ve contacted the wrong party, and don’t hear from them again. But recently, a company sent us three separate DMCA requests, asking that we remove certain allegedly proprietary content from our sites. The problem? Wikimedia is not associated with any of the sites in question. The company apparently thought that all sites that include the word 'wiki' in the URL or use MediaWiki software are Wikimedia projects. We explained that isn't the case, but they continued to send us DMCA notices.